Saturday 24 February 2018

'Walking out of tunnel was special – I'll take that feeling to the grave'

Player Diary

Paul O'Connell and Dave Kilcoyne celebrate last weekend's superb Heineken Cup quarter-final victory against Toulouse
Paul O'Connell and Dave Kilcoyne celebrate last weekend's superb Heineken Cup quarter-final victory against Toulouse

Dave Kilcoyne

There's no time for dwelling on success in this game, and with a crucial Pro12 clash against Glasgow tomorrow, we need to be focused on the job in hand.

To a certain degree, it was a lot easier to head into a Monday morning review in Mitchelstown on the back of a buzz like Saturday and a great performance against Toulouse, but we had a great couple of days last weekend to enjoy what was a memorable occasion at Thomond Park.

For me personally, I'd say it was the best atmosphere I've ever played in front of. We played Clermont in the semi-final over in France last year and I'll never forget how intimidating it was coming into that environment.

But I think the crowd in Thomond Park even bettered that at the weekend – they were incredible. I can imagine the Toulouse lads felt that pressure when they arrived and I'd say it increased again as the place went mad before kick-off.

It was just incredible, even after our warm-up before the game. We were in the dressing-room before going out and we could feel the vibrations from the stand above. It was hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff and it definitely powered us on for that good start.

It's something I'll take to the grave with me; that feeling walking out of the tunnel was special.


Toulouse are a very proud French side and they've won this competition four times. They have the tradition of a side that performs well in the knockout stages, so it was always the intention to hit them hard from the off.

We wanted to put them on the back foot early on and that took a little bit of the pressure off us. You can't just rely on your defence to win games. We took them on up the guts and we definitely deserved the early try.

I was delighted to get the second try, but I got an unmerciful slagging from the lads about my over-zealous celebration.

I'm usually not one to get carried away like some of the backs when they score, but I got caught up in the heat of the moment and the boys have been ribbing me since. I'd gladly take that abuse any day after I score though. That was definitely one of my most satisfying ones to date.

Looking back at the video of the game, the scrums seemed to come in for a bit of attention, but we really thought we did well against a tough, hardened Toulouse front row.

Their pack carries serious grunt, but we had our analysis done, and in fairness we had them in a lot of trouble for the most part. Some of the calls went against us at times, but we were the dominant force, no doubt.

I was a little disappointed to pick up a yellow card for the second week in a row, and I honestly didn't think it was warranted.

We put everything into the scrum and we pride ourselves on our ability, but sometimes it just goes against you. It is such a hotly-contested area of the game now, and in a tight match everything can hinge on one scrum.

I was fairly sore on Sunday morning – it was a bruising encounter – so I did a bit of early recovery. Myself and a few of the lads went for a swim and jacuzzi at the Castletroy Park Hotel.

I watched the Leinster-Toulon game with my two brothers down in Collins Bar in Raheen. We went down for a bit of grub and took in the match at the same time.

Toulon looked very impressive in fairness, but it is hard to know what to make of them. If we had come out and let Toulouse attack us from the start, they could have run riot as well. The fact that Toulouse and Toulon had a tight game the week before last is a good indicator of the standards. It is going to be a tough match, but we can't shrink back; we'll need to attack them if we are to have any chance.

Marseille is not their home patch – the Felix Mayol looks like a great place to play – but the Toulon fans will create a home away from home there I'm sure. I see that Munster have been granted 12,000 tickets, so no doubt we'll have closer to 20,000 there. It'll be some occasion again.

You can't be disappointed in who you are or are not facing in a Heineken Cup semi-final. The important thing is that we are there. We'd have loved to have gotten another crack at Leinster and I'm sure they would have liked another shot at us, but you never know, we might end up meeting in the Pro12 again before the end of the season. That's for further down the line.

Focusing on the challenge directly in front of us, it has to be said that Glasgow could be one of our toughest games this season.

They have a game in hand on the rest of us near the top so it makes it all the more important that we beat them tomorrow. A win for them would leave them in a very strong position and we really need to be on our game.

It might be easy to get carried away with the feelgood factor after beating Toulouse, but with such a big game to bring us back into the Pro12, our minds were well focused by Monday.

In some ways the Toulouse game was great preparation to play Glasgow, mainly because they play very much like a French team. They throw it about and try to catch you out with quick tap penalties, but they also have the big men up front that are well able to take you on.

Rob Penney always says the difference between a good team and a great team is the ability to perform consistently.

It's time for us to execute week in, week out now. We need to back up last weekend's win and performance with more of the same tomorrow and in the weeks to come.

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